CAIRO: The Ministry of Social Solidarity has rejected NGO Arab Center for the Independence of the Judiciary’s registration and demanded it change its name, as the ministry claims the NGO’s title suggests the judiciary is not independent.
As he wanted to meet the government’s conditions for NGOs to operate in Egypt, rights lawyer Nasser Amin, the head of the Arab Center for the Independence of the Judiciary, told The Cairo Post Thursday he sought to register his NGO as demanded under the controversial 2002 NGO Law.
Suggestions the judiciary lacks independence are a prickly issue for the Egyptian government, and when pressed on the issue, government representatives typically go into defense mode.
Amin said he found the rejection of his registration request “unreasonable and illegal.” “The law does not interfere in the name of the organizations as long as it is in line with practiced activities,” he added.
“This is a bad indication for the future [of civil society],” he said, promising he will stand firm and not change his NGO’s name.
Many independent organizations have already registered under the law after the registration deadline set by the government ended on Nov. 10.
Other organizations chose instead to end their work and activities in Egypt, as they believe the current law seeks to turn independent organizations into quasi-government entities.
“The 2002 civil society law is unconstitutional, as it impedes the rights to assembly stipulated in the Constitution,” said Amin.
Despite the government speeding up procedures to bring all independent organizations under the current law, it has previously said the law has problems and subsequently started drafting a new one.
NGOs want ‘open’ dialogue for new law
Ten rights organizations have called for a “serious, transparent dialogue” with the Ministry of Solidarity to discuss the new draft law to regulate NGOs, associations’ independence and interference in NGO work, according to a joint Tuesday release.
“Rights groups have nothing to hide or avoid in such a dialogue. We expect from the government the same readiness to discuss matters related to high national interests,” read the release.
“We [civil associations] have come to know, unofficially, that there is a new law that has been drafted without being proposed to national dialogue. That’s why we are requesting to present the new draft law to a full and open discussion with different parties, entities and civil associations before being discussed in the coming Parliament,” said Mona Ezzat, a program director at the New Woman Organization, one of the undersigned rights groups on the release.
The call for a dialogue stems from the importance of discussing the nature of the work of civil society in Egypt, its role and position, Ezzat told The Cairo Post Thursday. “Any changes should be first discussed [by the stakeholders] and should not come in the framework of orders or like the current smear campaign mounted against civil society.”
“The main question here is: does the government believe in the citizens’ right to assembly, and does it plan to abide by the Constitution the people have chosen,” she continued.
In the same context, Mohamed Zarea, the head of the Arab Penal Reform Organization, expressed his concern over previous dialogues with the government that he said did not address the demands of NGOs.
Zarea, who has previously criticized the 2002 law and temporarily halted the activities of his organization, said Thursday in comments to The Cairo Post “the State only releases orders,” and that there is a serious gap between the government and civil society.
Regarding the NGOs’ call for dialogue, it has not been reported yet that any civil society organization has received any invitation or response from the government.